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After utilizing an open-city design for its premium Iron Man 2 movie game – complete with the requisite array of screen-cluttering virtual buttons – Gameloft opted for something simpler, swifter, and certainly cheaper for the next tie-in. Released in advance of the latest live-action Marvel Comics romp, the free-to-play Iron Man 3 sends Tony Stark soaring ahead through multiple locales, with alternating sequences that find him swiftly dodging traffic and aerial obstacles, zapping waves of foes, and even fighting through narrative-led boss battles. Blazingly fast and initially quite fun, this gratis game easily warrants a download from fans, though the thrills are short-lived.
Iron Man 3 impresses out of the gate with its attractive presentation, with nicely detailed suits of armor zipping speedily through the 3D environments and only the occasional hint of slowdown on an iPhone 5. Taking the form of a behind-the-back endless flier, the game finds you tilting or tapping the screen to move from left to right as needed to evade obstacles – like fighter jets, trucks, and missiles – while tapping to blast enemies as they come up. An array of quick-hit missions are readily available to earn you Stark Credits to put towards unlocking upgradable armor suits in the game, plus each new day allows access to one of several boss fights, which serve up a larger villain (like M.O.D.O.K.) to defeat.
The freemium affair is exhilarating in spots, especially when whipping through laser-filled tunnels at an insane clip, but the approach turns repetitive before long, particularly when you realize that you're not making much progress. It's unclear how to unlock the later two locations (New York City and China), and we were whipping around Malibu ad nauseam until we spent $5 in real cash on enough ISO-8 – one of the in-game currencies – to buy a few continues and apparently fly far enough to start up in the following area the next time we played. Or maybe it was tied to one of the daily missions? Iron Man 3 doesn't make it very clear either way, but we wouldn't recommend shelling out that much cash to find out for yourself.
We love the large array of unlockable armor suits (18 in total), and didn't mind the occasional timers for suit repairs and upgrades, which unsurprisingly can be hurried along with ISO-8. But things get a little convoluted with three types of spendable currency (including earned experience points and Stark Credits), which make unlocking armor a slow, multi-step process that'll only ever benefit those with huge amounts of free time – or the ludicrous $100 worth of ISO-8 needed to open everything at once. The tough-to-dodge obstacles deliver huge damage to the lower-end suits, and it makes Iron Man 3 feel too much like a constant, sluggish grind for better gear. It's then that initial excitement withers.
The bottom line. Iron Man 3 is a fun free game and a very solid diversion, but slow progress saps its long-term appeal.
iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone running iOS 5.0 or later
Great presentation and sense of speed. Numerous suits of armor to unlock and customize. Daily boss missions offer incentive to dive back in.
Very slow and sometimes unclear grind to unlock new areas and armor. Some obstacles are nearly impossible to dodge, but often deal grave damage. Unlocking suits with real cash is hugely expensive.